Many of us are now settled into home offices, kitchen tables and hastily-converted spare bedrooms to continue working from home throughout the lockdown – which as of this week shows no signs of being lifted anytime soon.
However, a large number of firms may still be getting to grips with how quickly everything has changed and what the new normal will look like in the long run – especially those that were not previously set up to cope with any sort of home working.
But whatever happens, whether we return to something resembling normality or have to see frequent lockdown measures for months or even years to come, it’s likely to change the way many of us think about working.
This means businesses will be forced to make further changes to how they operate in order to accommodate this new, if unexpected, workplace revolution.
How remote working technology became essential
It already seems strange that just a few weeks ago, many businesses still viewed remote working with a degree of suspicion. Even though efforts to promote flexible working arrangements have been in place for a while – and every employee has long had the right to request this, whether it be in the form of home working or flexible hours – those stuck in a more traditional office-based, nine-to-five mindset may well have been caught out by what’s required to make it a success.
The technology to make home working effective isn’t new, but it’s never easy to ramp up deployments in such a short space of time – meaning those that were already prepared stand to gain a significant advantage over those that are just coming to the tools for the first time.
Indeed, there is a range of technologies that have quickly moved from optional to essential – including Video Conferencing tools, collaboration solutions, unified communications, and strong fixed-line or mobile connectivity to keep home workers in touch. This is not to mention any additional hardware requirements, such as laptops or tablets for workers who don’t have suitable tools accessible in their homes.
This is likely to have significantly upended many firms’ IT plans and strategies and refocused their attention on how they can best provide their employees with the tools they need to keep working.
The challenges faced by businesses
For those that had previously dismissed remote working as a viable option and failed to react swiftly to put in place the necessary solutions – perhaps under the assumption that these unusual circumstances would be temporary and over quickly – there may have been a number of challenges and problems to overcome.
When it comes to keeping in touch, for example, it may have been tempting to cut corners and go for the most basic options, but this brings with it a range of problems. Free videoconferencing solutions, for example, often have limited features that hinder their effectiveness, not to mention the well-publicised security issues.
Then there’s the challenge of keeping connected in other ways. While the country’s broadband networks are broadly coping with the extra pressures being placed on them by the new army of homeworkers, there may be particular issues that need to be overcome for some workers.
For example, most home broadband networks are asymmetric, meaning they have far faster download speeds than upload speeds, which may cause issues if workers suddenly find themselves needing to share large files with colleagues or customers.
Looking to the future
Whatever the challenges your firm is facing in this new environment, you can’t expect things to return to normal quickly. Whether it is future lockdowns in order to prevent the spread of second or third waves of the coronavirus, or simply new expectations from employees to retain or expend home working options after the crisis has passed, it’s highly likely the days of the Monday-Friday daily commute and strictly office-based way of working are gone.
This means you can’t expect any of the tools you’re putting in place now to be a simple short-term solution, or depend on ad-hoc or free offerings to maintain your effectiveness in tomorrow’s economy. You’ll not only have to consider collaboration tools, but what other technologies – such as a high-speed broadband connection – your employees may need in order to be productive going forward.
Therefore, you need to be putting in place clear, long-term plans to ensure the Modern Workplace can be easily supported by your business without compromising your productivity or communications.
How successfully you do this could well be the difference between a firm that thrives and one that falls behind, so it pays to have expert partners on hand who can advise you of your options and recommend the most effective approach to make the most of the new way of working.